Whether in a large city like Toronto or a smaller city such as Woodstock, city driving is fraught with traffic lights leading to stop-and-go driving. On the way home from a busy day of work or while in a rush to drop the kids off at school, we’re all repeatedly faced with that critical decision: as you approach an intersection, the traffic light turns from green to amber, do you stop or do you go?
Every day across Ontario drivers are stopped and charged by the police for Amber Light – Fail To Stop or Red Light – Fail To Stop. How do these charges work? What are the penalties? Will this cause your insurance to increase? What can you do? Let’s take a look…
The most common intersection and traffic control signal related offence that we help clients with are red light offences. Generally a ticket for “Red Light – Fail To Stop” will be issued under Highway Traffic Act (HTA) section 144(16):
(18) Every driver approaching a traffic control signal showing a circular red indication and facing the indication shall stop his or her vehicle and shall not proceed until a green indication is shown. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (18).
Not as commonly, we see clients that have been charged with “Amber Light – Fail To Stop” under HTA section 144(14):
(15) Every driver approaching a traffic control signal showing a circular amber indication and facing the indication shall stop his or her vehicle if he or she can do so safely, otherwise he or she may proceed with caution. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (15).
One of the immediately noticeable key differences in the requirement to stop for amber light, as compared to a red light, is “if he or she can do so safely.” This can be a subjective judgement call. A police officer viewing a vehicle from a distance may have a different opinion than the actual driver of the vehicle looking up at the impending traffic light. Road conditions, proximity to the traffic light, other traffic, and driving skill can vary from situation to situation in whether a driver feels that they can safely stop for an amber light.
A conviction for Amber/Red Light Fail To stop will result in a record of conviction on your driving history. A 3 demerit point penalty will also be applied against your licence. Demerit points are active for two years from their original offence date. If you have had prior demerit points during that period of time you could face an MTO interview or an immediate suspension of your driver’s licence. A conviction for failing to properly stop for the traffic light may also result in an increase to your insurance rate.
Commercial motor vehicle drivers also have to be very careful about their CVOR points. A conviction for Amber Light – Fail To Stop will result in a 3 CVOR point penalty and a 5 CVOR point penalty is given for a Red Light – Fail To Stop conviction.
Generally the fine for a standard “ticket” version of an Amber Light – Fail To Stop charge will be $150.00 (plus VFS and court costs) and $260.00 (plus VFS and court costs) for a Red Light – Fail To Stop offence. However, in matters where the offence has been issued under a summons, the fines can fall under a larger range as per HTA section 144 subsections (31.2) and (31.2.1):
Penalty for disobeying amber light
(31.2) Every person who contravenes subsection (15) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $150 and not more than $500. 2009, c. 5, s. 44 (2).
Penalty for disobeying red light
(31.2.1) Every person who contravenes subsection (18) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $1,000. 2009, c. 5, s. 44 (2).
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Pleading guilty by paying the fine on your ticket results in the penalties outlined above.
Alternately, the ticket can be contested at court. The first immediate benefit is that by filing the matter with the court, the offence will not be visible on your driving history for demerit points or insurance purposes while your case remains before the court. Once a court date has been set for your matter, the defence can then file for a release of the evidence that the Prosecutor’s Office will be using at trial. A trained and licenced paralegal can review that evidence and meet with the Prosecutor on your behalf to determine if there are any legal defects that would warrant withdrawing the charge against you. If there is no legal argument to have the charge withdrawn, then negotiations can be entered into to see if an agreement can be reached to reduce the charge to a lesser offence.
If the charge is not withdrawn or amended to a lesser offence, then a trial will provide an opportunity for your defence to be argued in the courtroom. Depending on the facts of your case you may or may not be required to attend your trial date to provide evidence.
A ticket or summons for Amber Light Fail To Stop or Red Light Fail To Stop can have financial, demerit point, CVOR point, driver’s licence suspension, and insurance consequences. By pleading guilty to your offence you become subject to these penalties without having had your defence to the charge presented at court. By proceeding to court you have the hope that the offence can be thrown out or be reduced to a lesser offence, and as a worst-case outcome only be convicted after having exhausted your defence at trial.
OTD Legal provides a no cost, no obligation initial consultation to help provide you with basic information that you will need in deciding what to do in best protecting your interests. Our staff can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org by our toll-free number 1-844-647-6869.